24 September 2019

What’s Andy Murray got to do with engineering?

It’s National Inclusion Week and I’ve just facilitated one of the many events across Siemens looking at how allies can help with Diversity and Inclusion where I encouraged everyone to #BeMoreMurray.

As in Andy Murray. The tennis player.

What’s Andy Murray got to do with engineering you may ask? Bear with me and hopefully it will all become clear.

We have a problem in engineering – we need to recruit more than 180,000 new engineers each year to fill the skills’ gap. Added to that, only 12% of the engineering community are female, yet they make up half the population. For Siemens, that number is even lower.

In sport, the men’s game is seen as more valuable than the women’s – although that is slowly beginning to change (prime time Women’s World Cup anyone…)

While there are many male and female sportsmen standing up for equality Andy Murray has stood out to me. And he was my first thought when I heard that the topic of this National Inclusion Week is Allies.

Andy Murray has been very vocal about the inequalities in sport. He’s openly declared himself a feminist and on numerous occasions has called out behaviour he didn’t feel appropriate. He’s stood up for the abilities of female tennis coaches (not just his mum) and called out casual sexism.

His most famous, and the one I remember most vividly, was during press conference for the 2017 Wimbledon tournament where he was beat in the quarter-finals by a US player Sam Querrey.

The reporter began his question by saying that Sam was the first US player to reach a major semi-final since 2009.

Before he could finish his question, Murray interrupted to say Querrey was the first male US player to reach a semi-final…

The journalist seemed to have forgotten about the Williams sisters two of the most successful US players in history.  

If we’re going to make any changes for diversity and inclusion in engineering, we all need to #BeMoreMurray.

In engineering organisations, where most people and leaders are male, it’s likely those Allies will be men – just as in sport – as we haven’t reached that point of equality.

I must admit, I was a bit nervous – two of our leaders, Faye Bowser and Carl Ennis were giving their time to share their thoughts and I didn’t know if we’d get any questions from our audience. I was wrong. 

What we found was that by having Allies across the organisation you can help to move the dial. But the discussion can’t just be about one under-represented group.

One of our audience made the excellent point that modern feminism isn’t just about gender and only a collective discussion will help people understand the many issues and nuances – for example why are you a female engineer and not just an engineer.

Another said that we need to make sure there are appropriate facilities on sites which don’t discriminate against female engineers, whether that’s changing facilities on site or having PPE which is made for a woman.

Senior leaders need to take positive action – this isn’t about setting targets or giving someone a job because they’re from an under-represented group – rather it’s about being more aware of unconscious bias and really working hard to fight against it.

Those same leaders need to work to create an environment where people can challenge without fear as people will only get better if they are challenged.

Being an Ally isn’t a label you put on yourself. It’s when someone else recognises that you’ve helped influence a decision or stood up for someone. So, if you recognise that someone has been an ally to you – tell them.

This doesn’t just apply to women in engineering, all under-represented groups in an organisation need someone to Champion them and for leaders to create change to make us more diverse.

There’s a massive skills’ gap in engineering, so we’re going to need to make a collective effort to attract and keep the brightest and best talent into our organisation, and not a competitor. We all have a duty to make everyone feels included. We all need to be a bit more Murray.

#NationalInclusionWeek #DiversitySparksIdeas

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